Heartened to see this piece today on the Acting Up – Breaking the Class Ceiling in the Performing Arts Inquiry, which links with the vital work by Dave O’Brien and colleagues.
Theatre, as with all of the mainstream arts in the UK (and elsewhere) – all of culture, all of politics (all of everything!) is ossified and tired. We are learning this time and again. And time and again policy-makers look at the heartbreaking statistics and studies that people like Dave are sharing and they wring their hands and say “But what can we do, that’s just how it is!”
That’s how it’s been. That’s not how it has to stay.
Quotas. This gets changed with quotas.
We have spent too long trusting that the big organisations and the powers that be will let us all in – too long trusting that they understand that we will make better work, more creative work, if/when they let us all in.
It turns out they don’t actually want more creative work, because it’s DIFFERENT and they are frightened of difference. Not just in theatre, in all the arts, in all culture, the powers that be – whether they are running the nation or running a small, local centre – want the same, repeated. They LOVE the same, repeated, because they understand it, can market it, they feel they know what they’re doing.
But the truth is that everything is in flux, all of the time, and the ONLY way to move forward is to embrace uncertainty, embrace difference, and embrace change. Yes, I find this far easier to say than to do – personally, I find constant change hard, exhausting, upsetting. I love a bit of stability and certainty*. But stability and certainty are not reality – change IS what is.
And if our arts, our stages, do not represent all of the people, do not INCLUDE all of the people (as creators, not just as audiences) then they will die – and they will deserve to.
* meanwhile none of my life has ever been stable or unchanging, from writing in several different genres (literary, historical, crime) and formats (novels, short stories, articles), to living and working through two cancers, to Fun Palaces, nothing I do is ‘stable’ and nor do I choose to work in that way – Fun Palaces in particular embraces not knowing, not having a template, not telling others what to do but supporting them to do for themselves.
Your blog highights the very interesting article in the Stage – I was particulalry struck by the authors’ diagnosis of the potentially self-referential nature of arts organisations . If you have only ever worked in the arts it takes a real effort to step outside that “Authorised Discourse” to see how others see it . Quotas scare people it’s easy to say we will be more inclusive and cite projects that well meaningly tried and made everyone feel good , however measures are hard and also show us that change is hardwork and not easy to achieve – truly shifting the dial, even only a small amount takes a lot of effort .